Label: Amercian Music Makers
Year of Release: 1968
Over four years ago I uploaded The Fruit Machine's fantastic USA-only single "The Wall" to this blog, frothing at the mouth in the process about its "shimmering effects, gut-thudding, plunging basslines, and Eastern-styled instrumentation". It remains one of my favourite obscurities of the era, acting as a near-perfect bridge between psychedelia and sixties pop - comparisons have been made between the single and Simon Dupree and The Big Sounds' "Kites", but in reality it's far, far better than that.
Sadly, the track has now been issued on iTunes and is available through four different labels, and rather than deprive the group of royalties I'd rather you went there and bought it instead. The mp3 that used to sit on this blog has since been deleted, but you can still sample "The Wall" on YouTube.
Fortunately, however, I've finally managed to grab a copy of the B-side. The single I originally had was a DJ promo with "The Wall" on both sides, whereas a month ago I managed to stumble upon an actual release copy at a reasonable price. "Willow Tree" isn't as good as its topside, but it's still a marvellous piece of work. Sounding slightly like a more mournful piece of work from the post-Syd, pre-Prog Floyd, it's a leafy, rural piece of psychedelic pop with whining, buzzing guitars and elements of paranoid doom about it. The noise of a comedown in the summer time, it's a brittle but nonetheless lovely track. Apologies for the obvious scratches, pops and needle damage, by the way.
As for the Fruit Machine, its since been revealed that while the first 45 they issued - "Cuddly Toy" - was the work of an in-house session band, subsequent releases "The Wall" and "I'm Alone Today" were the work of a proper "gigging" outfit from South West London. Stephen Gould, Andy "Ced" Curtis (previously a member of a group called The Walham Green East Wapping Steam Beating, Carpet Cleaning, Rodent and Boggit Exterminating Association) Chris Randall and Andy Deacon were in the line-up, and issued a string of 45s which didn't really manage to sell in large quantities. Indeed, for some reason "The Wall" b/w "Willow Tree" was never issued at all in the UK, which seems like a woeful misjudgement on the part of their label.
Curtis and Gould later went on to become involved with Rare Bird, who regular readers of this blog will know were also an eventual destination for The Turnstyle's member Mark Ashton (discussed a few weeks ago). Somebody pull together a family tree now and save me the job of having to do it.